SEC Invites Issuers and Public to Comment on Climate Issues
The question of climate change and ESG continues to percolate at the Commission. To date we have had indicators of interest such as speeches, comments, new task forces and similar items suggesting that the Commission and the staff are talking about the questions. This week, however, a new indicator of interest emerged– an invitation for the public to state their views on the subject, guided by a series of questions. Acting Chair Allison Herren Lee, Public Statements – Public Input Welcomed on Climate Changes (March 15, 2021)(here).
The statement begins by recounting the efforts of the agency in the area – largely the 2020 disclosure standards, recommendations from the Investor Advisory Committee in May 2010 and the subcommittee of the Asset Management Committee later in the same year. In view of continuing investor demand for information about climate change and risks the agency is now giving the pubic an opportunity to comment on the subject, guided by fifteen points. Those points include:
1) Regulate: How the agency can “best regulate” climate change disclosures to provide more consistent and comparable information with greater transparency
2) Quantified: What information about climate change can be “quantified and measured”
3) Process: What are the advantages and disadvantages to having investors, registrants and the public participate in developing the standards
4) Industries: What are the advantages and disadvantages to having disclosures and standards vary by industry
5) Existing standards: Are there advantages/disadvantages to drawing on existing standards
6) Updates: Should there be updates and improvements to the standards over time
7) Best practices: What is the best approach to requiring disclosure
8) Company process: Should an issuer disclose its internal processes in the area
9) Single standard: Are there advantages to adopting a single standard
10) Enforcement: How should the standards adopted be enforced
11) Reliability: Should the agency consider measures to ensure reliability regarding the disclosures
12) Comply/explain: Are there advantages to adopting a disclose or explain why not approach to the disclosures
13) Issuer views: How does the agency craft standards to elicit meaningful issuer views on the subject
14) Private companies: How should agency rules address private firm disclosures
15) Related issues: While the staff is considering a range of issues should the disclosure focus on climate and the environment or include other points such as ESG
It is clear that questions regarding Climate Change and ESG disclosure are difficult and can be complex. The Acting Director of Corporation Finance, for example, delivered remarks recently highlighting some of the issues. The points above present some of the questions and points for consideration.
There is also no doubt that inviting public comment is a worth while endeavor. Similarly, crafting draft rules is also a way to generate public comment. That process, however, seems to be reserved for the future – comment on the points listed above are not due for 90 days. Perhaps by then new Chairman Gensler will have arrived.
Comments are requested in ninety days at firstname.lastname@example.org